Just over a week ago, on Tuesday afternoon, Emma and I said our final goodbyes to friends and family and boarded the first of three planes to our new home for the next year (or hopefully two) – Australia. We flew with Air France and China Southern from Edinburgh, and had a great experience; with plenty of films to watch, and luckily a quiet third leg of the journey, so room to spread out over multiple seats.
Landing in Brisbane, we were greeted at the airport by Greg (my brother), and Hannah (my cousin), both of whom have been living / working / travelling in Australia for quite a while now. We went off and had breakfast at a cafe Hannah directed us to, and had the delicious “avo” on toast while getting various tips of what we need to organise first and go see and do in our time here.
Next stop was the hostel where we checked into our 20-bed dorm, grabbed a shower, then set off on our days adventures. The first day for us was a day of organising and planning the ‘boring’ stuff, but essentials to get yourself ready for the year ahead of living and working.
I should mention, before we arrived, Emma and I organised :
- Our first four nights accommodation in Brisbane at Brisbane City Backpackers.
- Opened our bank accounts online with Westpac.
- Bought travel insurance (Alpha is who I went with, who allow you to renew online after a year)
- Transferred money into our account via Transfer wise. This allows you to send money to anywhere in the world with very low fees. Use this code to get a free, no fees transfer of up to £500.
- Picked up an International Drivers License from the Post Office (You just need a passport photo and £5.50)
On our first day, we:
- Verified our ID with the bank. The app is great, and you can withdraw money at ATMs without a card while you wait for it to arrive. This will take around a week, so you need to know where you will be in a weeks time so it can be posted out to you.
- Bought Sim cards. We went with Boost network which runs off Telstra. Supposedly Telstra network has the best signal in the more remote areas. The phone plans are kind of a mix of PAYG and Contract. We ‘recharged’ $40 a month which gives us 9gb of data and unlimited international and domestic calls and text, perfect for contacting home. However, next month if we wanted less data for example, we could top up $25 and go for the next plan down. So the flexibility is pretty great.
- Applied for tax file numbers (TFN). You just fill out a simple form online but you must be in the country to do so, hence why we waited until the first day. This number will also get sent out to you in the post. You are required to have this number to undertake any work, as you must give it to your employer when you start.
- Applied for Medicare. You print out a form, fill it in and take it in to a local centre who processes this for you, and again, will post you your card in the near future.
Luckily, we could use Hannah’s address for all these forms, but if you can’t, just use the hostel you are currently in. They won’t mind, as that’s what most people will be doing.
Finally, you can also open a ‘Super’ bank account. This is like a pension – your employer will pay into this as you work, and you can reclaim it after you are done your travels and you leave the country. I believe if you don’t open one, your employer will for you, but if you work multiple jobs this could get confusing. We’re going to open one with Westpac just as soon as our Tax File Numbers come through.
You’ll also hear a lot about claiming back your tax refund amongst backpacker communities. I believe from the research that I’ve done, that when you work, you pay tax on your earnings. If you earn below the tax-free threshold in the year ($18, 200), you can claim any over-paid tax back, which is great news! This can be done from the start of July every year, and I believe you need your payslips from every employer to do this.
I think that’s it for what we’ve organised so far. Next post, I’ll tell you about our experience of buying a backpackers car!